Masks

Aug 23, 2014

Masks

Born in the late Meiji Era (1868-1912), Fumiko Enchi was not simply the peer, but the equal of writers in the order of Naoya Shiga and Jiro Osaragi. There was praise for her work from such authors as Junichiro Tanizaki and Yasunari Kawabata, towering ...

Sun-dazed on a distant archipelago

Aug 9, 2014

Sun-dazed on a distant archipelago

It didn’t take long for a seasoned group of truck drivers to stake their claim to the best seats in the house or, in this case, ferry. They positioned themselves on tiny plastic seats at the rear of the open deck as the ferry ...

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Aug 9, 2014

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

The torching in 1950 of Kyoto’s majestic Temple of the Golden Pavilion remains one of the world’s most discussed cases of arson — not least because the act was perpetrated by an acolyte of the temple. Transcripts of his confession and subsequent trial contain ...

Kunisaki: into a world of moss and stone

Jul 12, 2014

Kunisaki: into a world of moss and stone

The sense of antiquity on the Kunisaki Peninsula is immediate. There are those that believe the region — whose name is said to mean “land’s end” — was created by demons in the service of powerful gods. You have to take these accounts with ...

Forget the world in a peaceful Okinawan island garden

Jun 28, 2014

Forget the world in a peaceful Okinawan island garden

First came the Ishigaki-teien, a mass of soaring limestone rocks, judiciously placed cycads and two lines of highly concentrated fukugi, the closely-matted leaves of the trees traditionally used in Okinawa as typhoon barriers. Owned by the Ishigaki family, who have lived on the island ...

Ring

| Jun 28, 2014

Ring

There is a long history of spooking the reader in Japan. The humid summer months are supposed to be alleviated by spine-chilling ghost stories and scary Edo Period dramas. But no particular season makes contemporary Japanese horror any less terrifying. Ring, by Koji Suzuki ...

Vita Sexualis

| Jun 14, 2014

Vita Sexualis

Ogai Mori was either a very fearless writer or someone confident enough to believe his literary status would insulate him against the fallout from publishing a novel guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of even the most enlightened Meiji Era (1868-1912) reader. Vita Sexualis, by ...

Almost Transparent Blue

| May 31, 2014

Almost Transparent Blue

Life around a U.S. base camp in Kanagawa in the 1970s may have mirrored certain aspects of American life, but they were often the most self-destructive elements. Set along the urban border between a military camp and Japan proper, the violent milieu of Ryu ...

One Man's Justice

| May 24, 2014

One Man's Justice

To borrow historian John Dower’s expression, the conflict in World War II between Japanese and American forces was a “war without mercy.” The atrocities committed by Japanese forces are well documented, those by American military personnel less so. One Man’s Justice, by Akira Yoshimura ...

Oya: The town that turned to stone

May 17, 2014

Oya: The town that turned to stone

It’s always good to know something about the ground under your feet when you visit a new destination. Geology, in a very real sense, is the foundation of the former renown and wealth of Oya-machi, a town with the dimensions of a village in ...